Greetings Rabbi Rosenblum:
I pose this question to you as Sheva has her specilaty in the field of Judism, not questions in 'Bible Study'.
My question and her response below:
Perhaps I should inform you that I was
anticipating for several days on a response
to a question from a serious torah student.
My question was regarding Isaiah 8:20:
And Isaiah declares, "To the law and to the
testimony: if they speak not according
to this word, it is because there is no
light in them."
Can you tell me exactly what this
means, specifically the 'testimony'?
Isn't the Law the testimony?
No, there is nothing tricky about this question. I prefer to answer questions about Judaism itself, not about bible study. I am not an expert in bible study.
I looked it up and asked a rabbi for you, and discovered that the words you gave me are actually an incomplete translation of the actual text.
The actual text of Isaiah 8:20 is "By the Torah and the teaching they will make this statement to you, which as no light of dawn".
The Radak, a commentary on the Torah, says that this means that he is swearing on the Torah that the people will indeed try to entice you with arguments that have no substance.
The word that your text translated as Law is "Torah", and the word that your text translated as testimony is "Teudah" which actually means teaching. However, the root of Teudah is Aid, which means witness, which is why probably why your text translated it as witness. From what text are you studying?
Basically, the verse is saying that he is swearing by the Torah, and the teaching of the Torah which bears witness to the veracity of the Torah, that people will try to convince you of unsubstantial arguments.
I hope this explains your question.
Best of luck,
However, I need clarification regarding this passage.
Is Isaiah saying if 'anyone' who does not speak according to the TORAH, then there is no light in them, (as in) they have no truth? When I read this, this is what it seems to imply to me, however, I want to make sure I am reading/understanding this correctly and in context.
Can you help?
I am not a Rabbi.
I am answering this without consulting the commentators, just from the context. The passage is referring to necromancers. Isaiah is swearing that people will try and convince you with all kinds of compelling arguments to seek out information about the future from the dead. Isaiah is saying (in verse 19) that the ultimate fallacy of their argument is that the dead cannot know the real truth about the living. He is using the morning light as an allegory to its property of unveiling the dark, the unknown. You were unable to see in the dark and suddenly the morning light makes you see. Conversely, their arguments have no morning light and are ultimately senseless.
After I finished this answer I checked again and see you used an "alternate" Bible translation. :-) That translation is very misleading.
a. "To the law and to the testimony" passable as long as it is understood that Isaiah is swearing on the Torah
b. " if they speak not according to this word", should be something like "if it is not so that they will speak of such things"
c. "it is because there is no light in them", more correct "which have no morning light"
The if and because is totally wrong.
Why would a Jew use the KJB translation in the first place?